Covenant Health Leads “Shock Initiative” for Community’s Heart Care

Three Covenant Health hospitals – Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville and Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge – have joined other community health care providers in a new shock initiative for treating heart attack patients. The shock initiative includes a newly developed algorithm which improves survival. 

Covenant Health represents the  largest participating health system in the collaborative.  Other partners in the shock initiative include other local healthcare providers, as well as health systems from six other cities across the United States. 

In cardiogenic shock a patient’s heart function drops dramatically, leading to low blood pressure and decreased blood flow to vital organs. Traditionally, physicians have had to rely on slower-acting medications and less effective mechanical devices to keep the heart functioning, but often the blood circulation is not enough to keep vital organs working properly. This has historically led to a 50 percent chance of death when cardiogenic shock occurs.

With the advent of the shock initiative, survival rates have improved to almost 80 percent. The protocol uses a device known as the Impella,  a small pump that alleviates the work of the heart during a heart attack. Additionally, the protocol incorporates a novel algorithm which allows doctors and nurses to systematically wean off the medications that can worsen outcomes in patients with shock. This collaboration and data sharing helps standardize care for a high-risk population of patients.

Lead Covenant Health cardiologists pioneering the initiative include Todd Justice, MD, Methodist Medical Center; Ayaz Rahman, MD, Parkwest Medical Center; and Joshua Todd, MD, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.

“Our cardiac team at Covenant Health is very excited to collaborate with local health systems in an effort to improve outcomes in patients with cardiogenic shock,” said Dr. Rahman. “We know that shock complicating a heart attack is a lethal disease. This opportunity will allow us to unite with national thought leaders in order to deliver the highest and most technologically advanced cardiac care to our community.”

“I am excited that we have a technology that can improve the odds of survival for these patients,” added Dr. Justice. “We have used the Impella support device at Methodist for several years now, and I can say unequivocally that I have had some patients who left the hospital in a vertical position because of it.”

“This initiative is an opportunity for Knoxville cardiac providers to work together and improve treatment options for patients admitted with cardiogenic shock,” said Dr. Todd. “We have been using this protocol, which has demonstrated a marked improvement in survival for a very sick group of patients at Fort Sanders Regional, and by joining the national initiative, Covenant Health and other Knoxville health systems will benefit from shared data and best practices.”

As the initiative continues, data regarding efficacy and patient outcomes will be shared among the participating health systems and released publicly.

Mike Belbeck, Covenant Health executive vice president of operations, said the health system is “pleased to be part of such an exciting initiative that can have such a positive impact in the lives of critically ill patients in the communities we serve.”    

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